When I was in Kindergarten, I received my first journal.

It was pastel pink and came with a lock and key (proving to me that writing was serious business). At six years old, I didn’t use it to plan out my goals or write out a to-do list.

Journaling - What is it?
Journaling can help you become more productive

But I did write out (very plainly) my accomplishments, my disappointments, and how I felt about them. It was no-frills and often one or two sentences per entry, at least in the beginning. But — unbeknownst to me — this simple habit was a wise one from which I could benefit for years to come.

Who is Journaling For?

Journaling can be beneficial to any age, any profession, and any gender. It’s a versatile tool that has been around for centuries. Name a great artist or inventor in our history and you can bet he or she probably kept a journal. They are used in a variety of ways — to sketch diagrams and thoughts, to recall the events of the day, or to brainstorm ideas (just to name a few).

And journaling is not just reserved for famous artists or award-winning innovators. It’s helpful for anyone who needs to keep track of priorities, process emotions, and clarify thoughts. It can be used for both writing and doodling. You can make plans or reflect on the day’s successes. Journaling is for anyone with a desire to express, progress, or reflect.

Handwritten or Hand-Typed?

In today’s world, everything is available as an app, so you can bet there are various digital versions of journals available. You’ll have to decide what works for you. There are certain benefits that only come from writing by hand, but there are others that come from having the digital accessibility.

Let’s dive into the upsides of each:

Benefits of Handwritten:

Gives you certain privacy / can’t be hacked

• The physical act of writing can be cathartic

• Slower process can be more beneficial for creative thinking

• Better for memory retention

• Able to sketch and doodle

Benefits of Digital:

Able to have backups / can’t be physically stolen, lost, or destroyed

Can often be accessed across different devices / very convenient

• Quicker to type than handwrite for most people

• Many options of apps and programs with various features for journaling

• Can also just use a blank document or notes tool

Benefits of Writing with Either Method:

Supports your personal development

• Reduces stress and is good for mental health

• Aids in problem solving

• Helps you clarify thoughts and emotions

• Can be a valuable piece of a therapy program for those with illness and disease

• Boosts your creativity

• Helps improve your communication and ability to share ideas effectively

• Can help you build good habits or break bad ones

• Allows you to learn from mistakes

• Lets you track moods and patterns in your life so you can improve

• Reminds of successes and to celebrate them

The bottom line is that there are endless benefits to journaling — whichever way you choose to go about it. The most important thing is that you just do it.

Different Approaches to Try

Now that we’ve clarified who it’s for and why you should do it, let’s lay out some of the different options you have in terms of style. To determine which approach will work best for you, you want to think about what your objective is. Do you want to have a record of your thought processes? Do you want to be able to remember events that happen in your life? Do you want to set and achieve goals? Do you like drawing things out in diagrams, maps, or sketches?

Whether you know exactly what you need or haven’t got a clue, here are 18 different approaches you can take to journaling. You’re sure to find at least one that will work for you!

  1. Morning Journaling. The original idea of “Morning Pages” came from Julia Cameron in the book The Artist’s Way. The basic idea is to write three pages first thing in the morning, while you’re still half asleep, stream-of-consciousness style.

  2. Bedtime Journaling. Write at the end of the day, right before you go to bed. The idea is to clear your mind so you can relax and sleep better.

  3. Daily Prompts. There are certain journals you can buy that have pre-printed pages of this, but you could also create your own system. You simply want a series of prompts each day that you always answer like “3 Things I Hope to Accomplish Today” or “What Would Make Today Great” or “1 Thing I’m Grateful For” or “How I Feel Today.”

  4. One-line-a-day. This is for those of you who don’t feel like you have the time to devote to any extensive amount of journaling. You simply sum up the day in one sentence. It’s easy to go back and look at a month’s worth of entries to compare how you felt.

  5. Diary-Style Journaling. This would be the polar opposite of one-line-a-day. You write to record the events of the day. You can include facts, feelings, and as much detail as you want.

  6. Moods & Feelings Journaling. This one focuses on the emotional side of life. It’s a great way to keep track of your moods and what influences those feelings. You may want to write how you’re feeling and a quick summary of what you did in the day that might influence it. (For example, you may discover that every time you go for a run, you get a surge of ideas later that makes you feel super creative.)

  7. Bullet Journal. This method isn’t for everyone. But if you like lists, it might be right up your alley. The 2018 book The Bullet Journal Method can get you started. Essentially you can track anything you want in an efficient way, with bullet points and color-coding.

  8. Gratitude Journal. Practicing gratitude is a mindfulness practice for improving happiness and fulfillment with life. A regular habit of acknowledging what you have (instead of what you don’t have) can shift your mindset to a more positive one.

  9. Freeform. For those of you who don’t want rules and restrictions, grab an unlined journal and write, doodle, sketch whatever calls to you on any given day.

  10. Digital. If you’re looking for a way to connect the photos on your smartphone with your daily stories (and even with audio recordings), a journaling app might be exactly what’s you’re looking for.

  11. Creative Writing. Daily journaling is great for writers to practice, generate ideas, and develop discipline.

  12. Dream Journal. If you are fascinated by your dreams, you may want to start writing them down in the morning.

  13. Food or Exercise Journal. If you are looking to maintain or change habits in your diet and health, this might be beneficial to you.

  14. Travel Journal. If you travel a lot, think about capturing the memories by writing down your adventures and possibly collecting mementos to enclose within.

  15. Art Journal. Keep track of ideas with daily drawings and sketches.

  16. Brainstorm Book. You can keep a journal of projects and ideas for personal or professional use, no matter what career you’re in. Use it to collect all your thoughts, set goals, and keep track of progress.

  17. Pocket Journal. It’s exactly what it sounds like — a journal that fits in your pocket or purse for on-the-go ideas. Sometimes the best ideas come when we’re not expecting it!

  18. Themed Journal. This option is great if you aren’t looking to journal daily, but you want to remember a specific event like pregnancy or a wedding honeymoon.

It doesn’t matter what stage in life you’re at or what you do for a living, the written word (or doodle) is a powerful tool for self-discovery, productivity, and creativity.

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